The Public Domain Enclosing the Commons of the Mind James Boyle

Publication date:
26 Jan 2010
Yale University Press
336 pages:
1 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

Why the public domain is vitally important and what we must do to protect it

In this enlightening book James Boyle describes what he calls the range wars of the information age—today’s heated battles over intellectual property. Boyle argues that just as every informed citizen needs to know at least something about the environment or civil rights, every citizen should also understand intellectual property law. Why? Because intellectual property rights mark out the ground rules of the information society, and today’s policies are unbalanced, unsupported by evidence, and often detrimental to cultural access, free speech, digital creativity, and scientific innovation.

Boyle identifies as a major problem the widespread failure to understand the importance of the public domain—the realm of material that everyone is free to use and share without permission or fee. The public domain is as vital to innovation and culture as the realm of material protected by intellectual property rights, he asserts, and he calls for a movement akin to the environmental movement to preserve it. With a clear analysis of issues ranging from Jefferson’s philosophy of innovation to musical sampling, synthetic biology and Internet file sharing, this timely book brings a positive new perspective to important cultural and legal debates. If we continue to enclose the “commons of the mind,” Boyle argues, we will all be the poorer. 

James Boyle is William Neal Reynolds Professor of Law, Duke University School of Law. He lives in Chapel Hill, NC.

"Reads like a cross between a supreme court judge and Malcolm Gladwell... a rallying cry" - The Observer 

"effortlessly lucid and downright witty in places,...  perfect for those living and working outside the ivory tower" - Computerworld  

?Like Paine?s Common Sense, Boyle?s The Public Domain is a rallying cry to the Googletariat: ?Nerds of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your urls.? - Robert McCrum, Observer

?Boyle?s scrupulous and engaging book is a refreshment as well as a manifesto.? ? Steven Poole, The Guardian, 24th April 2010

"This scholarly biography should appeal to laymen and scientists alike…. Michael Hunter captures the intellectual timbre of the age as well as putting flesh on Boyle himself."—Sunday Telegraph

?Boyle has been the godfather of the Free Culture Movement since his extraordinary book, Shamans, Software, and Spleens set the framework for the field a decade ago. In this beautifully written and subtly argued book, Boyle has succeeded in resetting that framework, and beginning the work in the next stage of this field. The Public Domain is absolutely crucial to understanding where the debate has been, and where it will go. And Boyle's work continues to be at the center of that debate.??Lawrence Lessig, C. Wendell and Edith M. Carlsmith Professor of Law, Stanford Law School and author of Free Culture and The Future of Ideas

?In this delightful volume, Professor Boyle gives the reader a masterful tour of the intellectual property wars, the fight over who will control the information age, pointing the way toward the promise?and peril?of the future. A must read for both beginner and expert alike!??Jimmy Wales, founder, Wikipedia

?Boyle is one of the world's major thinkers on the centrality of the public domain to the production of knowledge and culture. He offers a comprehensive and biting critique of where our copyright and patent policy has gone, and prescriptions for how we can begin to rebalance our law and practice. It is the first book I would give to anyone who wants to understand the causes, consequences, and solutions in the debates over copyrights, patents, and the public domain of the past decade and a half.??Yochai Benkler, Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies, Harvard Law School

"Boyle certainly makes clear that the commons and the public domain are not one and the same. In fact, this book is remarkable in many ways, not the least in conflating these. As someone teaching a course annually on information policy, I welcome this clarity and the sheer enthusiasm and humor of this simply delightful book."?Edward J. Valauskas, First Monday

"The author is a fine writer, gifted teacher and great explainer so readers can actually enjoy this thoughtful and important discussion without seeking assisted stimulation." ? Richard Pachter, Miami Herald

Winner of the 2008 Donald McGannon Award for Social and Ethical Relevance in Communications Policy Research given by the Donald McGannon Communications Research Center at Fordham University.